The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (also known as the 'Square Colosseum') is perhaps the most emblematic architectural project realised during Benito Mussolini's Fascist dictatorship, which governed Italy between 1922 and 1943. Now, sixty years later and having never been used, Italian fashion house Fendi and architect Marco Costanzi have—amid controversy—renovated the historically charged building into their headquarters, with office space to accommodate around 450 employees. Having reportedly signed a fifteen year lease with the municipality of Rome, the haute fashion house will be paying around €240,000 ($265,000) in annual rent.
The building, an architectural statement designed by Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Romanoas, was part of Mussolini's deluded fantasy create a 'new Roman Empire'. It was the centrepiece of the 'EUR' (the Esposizione Universale Roma) — a new urban complex designed for the 1942 world exhibition which, due to the events of the Second World War, never functioned as originally intended.
As reported in The Guardian, in response to criticism that the company are ignoring the building's historical significance, Fendi's Chief Executive Pietro Beccari has said: "For me it is a non-issue. For the Romans it is a non-issue. For Italians it is a non-issue. [...] This building is beyond a discussion of politics. It is aesthetics. It is a masterpiece of architecture. To rebuild it today would cost more than €500m." He continued: "For Italians and for Romans, it is completely deloaded, empty of any significance of that period [...] there was no political activity that took place here. We never saw it through the lens of Fascism.”
Listen to ArchDaily Editor James Taylor-Foster discuss the impact of Fendi's move on Monocle 24 (33:20):